Conquest crosses the worlds of cute indentured monster servants from Pokemon with Nobunaga's Ambition, a series of Koei strategy games revolving around the bloody unification of feudal Japan by Oda Nobunaga. But Pokemon Conquest, which released in Japan last month as Pokemon + Nobunaga's Ambition, takes itself so seriously as a strategy role-playing game that it isn't the irreverent experience I made it out to be in my mind.
Despite my initial disappointment, I was very impressed with the depth found in Pokemon Conquest. Pokemon Conquest showed the same kleptomania that runs rampant in the Pokemon series, combined with the grid-based battles and city-conquering aspects found in Nobunaga's Ambition. The visuals stood out, being every bit as cartoonish and bright as you've been led to believe. It all seems to be part of an effort to make the game as palatable to younger audiences as possible. Pokemon games generally sell well in the younger demographics, but the rich strategy of Nobunaga's Ambition is typically not geared toward those fans.
There are a lot of traditional role-playing elements here that may be a bit hard for younger audiences to grasp. Pokemon games are generally more streamlined, with far fewer modifiers to account for than traditional JRPGs – Pokemon Conquest has Pokemon to deal with, Warlords and Warriors have their own individual traits, and a world overview of neighboring and conquered capitols to attack and defend with appropriate units make up the lion's share of the game. Pokemon Conquest is broken up into episodes, and the first – the training episode – is about 30 hours long.
All fighting takes place on a grid. When you invade a neighboring castle, it has a lineup of warriors you must battle, each with their own Pokemon who are all dumped on the map. Each castle follows a theme – grass, fire and so on – and have interactive traps and shortcuts to discover. Outside of that, it's just like other turn-based strat-RPGs: Each unit has a range of movement, and attacking enemies from advantageous positions (like from behind) yields increased damage.
SRPGs aren't typically my genre of choice, but I could have seen myself playing Pokemon Conquest. However, after some time with the game, it felt so uninspired. It's a diehard strategy sim game with Pokemon instead of Pikemen. It's not a particularly new experience.
The melding of Pokemon and Nobunaga's worlds seems to be more cosmetic than anything else. The two could have come together to create something truly unique and special, and instead I left my preview session feeling Tecmo Koei cobbled together two franchises to form another standard strategy game.